In 1979 Ohio, Joe (Courtney) is struggling with the fact that his mother has died in an accident. But it's summertime, so he and his pal Charles (Griffiths) decide to make a zombie movie with their friends (Lee, Basso and Mills).
Enlisting the help of their hot schoolmate Alice (Fanning), they are shooting a scene when they witness a train crash and some suspicious ensuing military mayhem. Suddenly the town is under the control of a harsh general (Emmerich), while Joe and his friends know a lot more than he thinks.
The film feels almost like a mash-up of E.T., Close Encounters and The Goonies, telling its story in an old-fashioned way that refuses to follow current film structure (there isn't a mindless action scene every five minutes). And the production values are state-of-the-art, as everything kicks off after the gasp-inducing train derailment. From here, Abrams teases us with vague glimpses of an alien creature that escaped from the wreckage, then slowly drip-feeds us plot details until we understand what's happening.
Of course, the adults don't have a clue, from Joe's grieving dad (Chandler), who as deputy sheriff is trying to protect his town, to Alice's drunken dad (Eldard), who barks seemingly random orders. Clearly, it'll be up to the kids to save the day, but they'll have to clamber through all kinds of obstacles to get there. And even if events never quite build to one of those exhilaratingly cathartic moments Spielberg is still so good at generating, a steady pace holds our interest.
At least there's plenty of raucous humour and general chaos, even if the film's lighter and sweeter than late-70s movies actually were. Back then, filmmakers were allowed to present kids with real attitude and truly bad behaviour. By comparison, this film feels like it's been run through a political correctness strainer. Still, when we finally get to see the Super 8 movie the kids were making (stick around for the credits), it's more than worth the ticket price.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 112 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th June 2011
Box Office USA: $127.0M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 221 Rotten: 49
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenwriter: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Wolf Ackva as Wilhelm Strassmann, Puppa Armbruster as Evi, Sandra Atia as Jutta, Astrid Boner as Ottilie Strassmann, Rolf Castell as Susannes Vater, Elke Deuringer as Irene Eberhardt, Marianne Dupont as Gaby, Yvonne Dwyer as Susanne, Jürgen Feindt as Müller, der Voyeur, Marisa Feldy as Uschi, Roswitha Geuther as Schülerin Anita, Joachim Hackethal as Huber, Carlamaria Heim as Frau Huber, Carina Kreisch as Schülerin, Carl-Heinz Kühn as Heinz, Eduard Meisel as Jürgen, Jörg Nagel as Helmut, Jürgen Schilling as Hans Weimann, Gisela Schwartz as Ingeborg Vollmöller, Werner Singh as Rolf, Christine Szenetra as Gisela, Claus Tinney as Studienrat Steinbach
Also starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Noah Emmerich, Glynn Turman, Dan Castellaneta, Bruce Greenwood, Jj Abrams, Steven Spielberg
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